RCA march on as title rivals West slip up

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There was a double bonus for Sunderland RCA last night when they defeated Newcastle Benfield and nearest challengers for the STL Northern League championship, West Auckland were held to a goalless draw by Marske United, writes Malcolm Pratt.

Neil Hixon’s side made a good start and when Mark Davison headed on a cross, Andrew Jennings was unmarked and beat visiting goalkeeper Andrew Grainger from close range.

The Tynesiders quickly recovered and enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure which was rewarded just before the interval as Shaun McAvoy volleyed in the equaliser.

RCA regained the lead midway through the second period. A free kick was headed down by Richard Paxton and Jennings gave Grainger no chance.

The Wearsiders, though, were unable to relax until Brian Close completed a 3-1 victory in the 88th minute when he converted a pass from Davison.

West Auckland, who are at Herne Bay on Saturday in the semi final of the FA Carlsberg Cup, were surprisingly held by Marske United whose goalkeeper Graeme Willey made several outstanding saves to keep the score sheet blank.

RCA now lead their closest rivals by four points but West have three games in hand.

Spennymoor Town and Dunston UTS are also in contention while Whitley Bay, who have competed all season, are now in danger of finishing outside the top six after they could only draw with Guisborough Town.

James Decosemo and William Blackford had the visitors two goals up at the break but the Seahorses were a different side during the second period and after Chris Reid reduced the deficit, Paul Chow equalised.

* Full round-up in tonight’s Sunderland Echo